American Health Policy Institute
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House Considers 15 Telehealth Bills Aimed at Increasing Access

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing this week on 15 bills aimed at modernizing telehealth and improving patient access to such services, including HR Policy-supported legislation providing access pre-deductible.

Background: During the pandemic, HHS waived many rules regarding utilization and payment of telehealth services in both Medicare and private plans. Since the pandemic, the use of telehealth services skyrocketed and demonstrated its effectiveness at addressing gaps in the health care system, particularly for behavioral health services. Telehealth can also address the high cost of care and management of chronic conditions—a study in the American Journal of Managed Care found that among those with prior cardiovascular events, those using telehealth for follow-up appointments had 31% fewer hospital admissions than those that did not use telehealth. Despite this, many regulatory barriers remain regarding how employers can offer telehealth services to employees.

Employer focused flexibilities: While much of the legislation was focused on Medicare, several HR Policy-supported bills were discussed. Included in the hearing was legislation that will:

  • Allow employees with high-deductible health plans to access telehealth services before reaching their deductible;

  • Allow employers to offer telehealth as a standalone “excepted” benefit, allowing access for part-time and seasonal employees; and

  • Allow licensed providers to practice telehealth across state lines.

What’s next: While the telehealth legislation has been mostly bipartisan, concern over fraud and abuse of the telehealth system will likely end with additional extensions of these flexibilities, rather than permanent solutions. HR Policy will continue to advocate for the relaxation of the regulatory barriers that limit employer options for offering low-cost telehealth services. 

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Authors: Margaret Faso

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